The third time doesn’t look to be the charm for a group of hippies in search of a gathering place as the Rainbow Family has received another eviction notice.
Since its inception in 1972, The Rainbow Family’s annual Global Gathering of the Tribes has been held throughout the world including Mexico, Ukraine, Chile, and the U.S.A.
This year’s month-long gathering was supposed to take place at Meadow Creek but a fire ban had the Rainbow Family scrambling to find an alternate site.
They reconvened at Raft Cove Provincial Park on Northern Vancouver Island but were quickly ousted because of a perceived risk to public safety and environmental concerns.
They then zeroed in on Rainbow Beach at Kennedy Lake—located between Ucluelet and Tofino—and began trickling in on Monday.
Rainbow Beach sits within the traditional territory of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation and negotiations between the Rainbow Family and the Nation began on Tuesday.
A promise to clean up after themselves and even build a playground for the Tla-o-qui-aht had the group’s potential to stay seemingly running high on Wednesday and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks project manager Terry Dorward went as far as to call their presence a potential win-win.
On Thursday however, official word came down that negotiations were over and the gathering is again in need of a new location.
“The Tla-o-qui-aht’s position is that they’re not welcome due to the (group’s) size and a lack of understanding of who they are,” Dorward said. “It’s unfortunate that we didn’t have the time or the resources to accommodate them, but that’s the way it is.”
He said Rainbow has been advised of the decision, and local RCMP have been notified of the situation, but those already gathered at the beach have not yet been given a deadline to leave.
“We don’t want to create a situation where it’s confrontational,” he said.
The Rainbow Family did not seem to be in any hurry to leave Thursday night as a group of about 60 were settling in and more were arriving by the hour.
A kitchen had been set up that afternoon and was being expanded to accommodate more people. Composts and gray water stations were set up as were stations for garbage and recycling.
Two Rainbow members, Adam and Tori, were chopping vegetables in the kitchen and said some much-needed cooking supplies had been brought in that day. Tori explained vegan meals are provided to everyone and the food is paid for by donations put into a hat that is passed around at mealtime.
“They’re not kicking us out but we won’t technically stay here,” said Jai, a 25 year-old Rainbow Family member who said the group is most likely headed to a different beach on Kennedy Lake.
“If we were to just be over at Redneck Beach and move a lot of our activities over there I think we could all share the beach.”
He said the gathering could see as many as 500 people during the full moon on August 20—the main event of the gathering—but assured numbers will dwindle down rapidly after that and the gathering will come to an end on Sept. 6.
The Tla-o-qui-aht are hosting their own gathering at Kennedy Lake from August 16-20 and several Rainbow members expressed an interest in attending.
“We’re really excited as a family to see what their heritage is about and what they do here in their ceremonies,” Jai said.
Jai has been attending Rainbow gatherings since 2008 and said a rift in the family caused problems “from the get go,” in terms of planning for this year’s event.
Some members wanted the event to be held in Meadow Creek and others wanted Raft Cove and neither side of the argument focused on making the necessary preparations, according to Jai.
“They both weren’t doing their full jobs which is to investigate where we’re going and make sure that it’s OK with the people of the land that we’re going to,” he said.
Responding to environmental concerns
Jai said concerns over the group’s environmental impacts are misguided.
“There’s just a giant misunderstanding; people here in Canada don’t truly understand what the Rainbow Tribe is about,” he said. “We’re full of environmentalists, and we’re about cleaning up the earth and finding alternative ways to power our way around this place.”
He pointed to a van parked nearby equipped with solar panels on its roof and said the Rainbow Family tries to teach by example.
“It’s about spreading knowledge about alternative energies like this so we can better the world,” he said adding Rainbow aerates the area and plants seeds before leaving a campsite.
“Without us here it’s just lingering around whatever pollution that’s floating around,” he said. “We’re coming here to bring this uplifting human energy; we’re imprinting this healing energy on the land that we’re on for this moment of time.”
Aside from alternative energy sources, the gathering’s primary focus is the standard peace and love mantra.
“The main thing about Rainbow gathering is spreading peace and love; that’s the core idea,” Jai said. “It’s gypsies coming together and taking care of each other; traveling people that thrive to see the world and thrive to spread love throughout the world.”
Leaving the past behind
Jai is quick to distance Rainbow’s current values from its actions in the 1980’s.
“In the early 80’s Rainbow was full of a lot of radicals, a lot of hippies that were sick of the environment being mistreated and they were doing things like sabotaging logging trucks,” he said, “we’re past that and we’re about bringing peace through peace as opposed to having to take a physical stance.”
Jai acknowledged some people treat gatherings as parties and leave a mess of litter behind when they leave. He refers to these people as drainbows because they drain the energy from Rainbow gatherings.
“There are people that will come here and they’ll trash the earth; they’ll come here and party hard and just leave trash everywhere,” he said. “There are drainbows that follow our family but we need to hug them and we need to heal them.”
He said certain Rainbow members always linger after a gathering to pick up any trash left behind.
© Tofino Ucluelet Westerly